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Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

Excursions [and other notes] involved in the exploration of Hallowe'en Rift; a cave, so far, formed within Triassic Dolomitic Conglomerate.

The exploration of Hallowe'en Rift was started in 1982 by Trevor Hughes with other members of the Bristol Exploration Club, then during the early 1990's Vince Simmonds and other, mostly, local diggers were active at a number of locations within the cave, including the start of the present dig with Graham Johnson in December 1991. The current phase of exploration was commenced in 2009, with the majority of the early work being carried out by Vince Simmonds and Alex Gee, now the regular team includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Matt Tuck, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock and Roz Simmonds. There has also been assistance from John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Duncan Price, Bob Smith, Mike Moxon, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, with a couple of guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

5th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 06, 2017 12:35:28
With Jonathon, Brockers and Ray Deasy.

I went along to the Tuck Shop with Ray, while I started to fill bags with gravel and fine sediment. Ray went along to the end of Merlin's to have a look-around there. Meanwhile, Brockers sorted-out a replacement skip, had to use the skip from the end of Merlin's as we had forgotten to bring the 'designer' skip [by Jake] from the shed.

Ray went to the top of the slope, Brockers on the haul and shuttle with Jonathon on the surface. Bags and rock then were removed from the Tuck Shop out to the surface, 35 loads in total. There are still about a dozen bags and a few rocks in the Tuck Shop, but Ray wanted to cycle over to Shepton Mallet to get to Thrupe Lane, so we made our way-out of the cave.

I had made sure the left wall was cleared ready for some further attention on Tuesday evening. At floor level, there's plenty of fine sediment with the occasional rock or lump of detached flowstone to be dug-out too. When this is cleared it might be an idea to carry-out another aural test.



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1st August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 02, 2017 06:05:19
Solo.

Went to the Tuck Shop, 6no. holes, spread along the east-side of the fissure going south. The aim is to widen the narrow gap and make the link to the aural connection with the passage left of the T-Junction. There is also the possibility there might be another lead to follow.

The first use of the new drill, batteries didn't have much charge, good job I had brought some spares.

It sounded much louder from Stal Bend.

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29th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 30, 2017 09:09:43
With Tav, Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Matt, returned from the 'Motherland'.

A good team turn-out today, I just hoped there would be plenty to do.

Quickly up to the end to assess the damage done, there was spoil to be removed, so I left Jonathon to carry-on and went back to the Tuck Shop. Brockers and Nick joined Jonathon to help with digging and spoil removal.

Meanwhile, Tav had gone down the pot and along Toil and Trouble, going left at T-junction, and over the top of the chamber into the bedding, a dig-site we had abandoned a long time ago. There is a rift feature to one-side of the bedding. Tav and I made an aural connection between here, and the fissure leading south from the Tuck Shop. Tav returned, a discussion took place, there can't be much in the way to link the two areas, and further digging would be better accessed from Merlin's, so it was decided, let's make the round trip.

There was spoil to shift, so Tav went to the haul and shuttle, I went to the top of the slope, Nick moved into the Tuck Shop. Bags and rock were then moved out of the cave, up to Matt, who had been waiting, patiently, on the surface.

Nick, in an effort to keep himself occupied, began to open-up the fissure south, so we had three people digging, all in different directions.

The hauling became increasingly difficult, the bottom of the skip was breaking-up, and was scouring mud from the passage floor. We had to haul just one bag at a time. It was getting towards the end of the session, another personnel shift was made to clear the remaining bags out to the surface.

Over forty loads, out to the surface and positive decisions made. Jonathon reported that a small crack had opened at the end of digging in the south-west lead.

A successful morning.



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25th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 26, 2017 06:22:29
With Roz.

Roz isn't a fan of bulls and was less than impressed to be told that 'bully' was in the field we were about to walk through. She walked a wide diversion to the stile into the wood.

In the cave, 6no. short holes (300mm) drilled, at the current end of Merlin's, gone back to the south-west lead. Got two of the long holes (460mm) complete and was on the third when, disaster struck ( a bit of melodrama!), yellow sparks, smoke, the acrid smell of electrical burning, the drill - dead, or, at least dying. Had to make-do with the hole that had been drilled, applied plenty of tamp, did the best that could be done. Will have to wait until the weekend to see the results.

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22nd July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 23, 2017 07:15:01
With Jake, Tav, Jonathon and Brockers.

Brockers cleared the bags and debris, Jake in the Tuck Shop, Tav on the [slippery] slope, Jonathon doing the haul and shuttle, leaving me on the surface, hauling skips and managing spoil dispersal. Rather surprisingly, I wasn't at all bothered by pesky, buzzing flies.

The rock that came out of the cave was added to the walls, finer sediment and gravel was levelled and compacted. Six dozen skip loads (51 bags and 21 skips of rocks), including 20 bags left-over from last weekend were shifted, each load somewhere about 10kg.

The news from the end, a solid rock had been reached, so no-go in a downwards direction. Another discussion ensued, continue the dig that leads to the south-west for a while and see how that develops, it might intersect something. I will arrange something for a mid-week visit to loosen the area. And so...to the pub.

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18th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 19, 2017 06:27:19
Solo.

A warm and humid evening, so decided to wear cotton overalls, anticipating the cave would be dry enough...and it was!

There are cows in the field with young, and a wary eye was kept on the bull, in truth they hardly noticed me as I strolled up to the stile.

In the cave, 6no. holes drilled to loosen rock in the floor at the west extent of Merlin's, where the passages appear to converge. A bit awkward clambering over the stash of bags left-over from the weekend, but job done.

The conclusion shook a pheasant of its perch, I could hear flying away in alarm. The frogs are still in the entrance.

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15th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 16, 2017 07:13:29
With Jake and Jonathon.

I went along to the end of Merlin's, reeling in the wire along the way, to start bagging the rocks and gravel. Jonathon and Jake cleared the backlog of spoil from last weekend, along with the bags and rocks that I was loading into the skip. Eventually, the loose spoil was bagged and digging slowed. Jake and Jonathon then moved back to clear the spoil stashed at the top of the slope to the entrance, and then, out to the surface.

Meanwhile, I got to work with hammer, chisel and bar to remove shattered rock, filled bags were stashed in "Nick's Folly". When clean, it was possible to get a better look at the narrow fissure, at most it's 15mm-20mm wide, and mostly, filled with fine sediment, not really a viable lead. I pondered for a while, Jake and Jonathon weren't going to return, I started to scratch around at the end of Nick's Folly, where the passages appear to converge, perhaps digging down in the floor here might reveal something. I'll loosen things-up a bit on Tuesday evening.

12:30, time to go and find the rest of the team and head-off to the Hunter's Lodge for refreshments.



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11th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 12, 2017 06:38:03
With Roz.

The entrance was wet after a rainy day, rest of the cave was okay, although it is still a little moist in the Tuck Shop.

Drilled 6no. holes, plus an extra one for the trimmings, either side of the narrow fissure, aiming to proceed downwards. The holes were well-stemmed and plenty of tamp was applied. All good.

Still raining when we exited the cave, the dampness has brought the little frogs out of hiding in the narrow rift at the rear of the entrance.

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8th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, July 11, 2017 07:04:39
A large part of the team, were elsewhere this weekend. I was on the Gower Peninsular helping-out with a cave dig there. Therefore, a depleted team attended Hallowe'en Rift.

Jake penned the following:

"Jonathon & me.

Cleared the loose, thirteen bags and a few rocks. Doesn't look good straight ahead. Stacked in Tuck Shop. Maybe worth blasting-out the floor. Might be worth visiting our other sites beyond the pot, now we have a bigger team? Anyway, one or two shots in the floor to see if it widens sounds good, long bar can be hammered into the floor quite a long way."



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4th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 05, 2017 05:56:53
A solo trip.

At the current end of Merlin's, attended to widening the narrow fissure to make for more comfortable digging. 6no. holes, plus an extra one for the trimmings, on either side of the opening. Spent some time making sure the holes were well-stemmed. Then, a steady retreat, reeling-out the wire, stopping at Stal Bend. All was good.

There should be stuff to clear on the weekend. Hopefully, someone will be able to rake-out the debris blocking the narrow fissure and see whether it widens, or, if there's any draught.

Exited the cave into a warm, humid evening.



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1st July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 02, 2017 07:59:45
With Jake, Jonathon and Brockers.

Jonathon digging, I was in the Tuck Shop, Brockers at the top of the slope and Jake on the haul and shuttle.

After reeling in the wire, I went to the end to look at the damage, some fly-rock, some gravel and fractured rock, not quite as much as I had expected. Then, moved out of the way so that Jonathon could get to work. It could do with being a bit wider at the end as hammer and chisel work is rather restricted. The outcome, 19 bags and 6 skip-loads of rock were eventually hauled out to the surface.

It could be said that the prospects for following the narrow fissure are not exactly inspiring, some thought is required regarding the next best move. At least two of the possibilities appear to lead in the wrong direction and another northerly lead, again is narrow, hmmm...!



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27th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 28, 2017 06:09:31
With Roz.

Continued to follow/expand the fissure, on the north-side, at the current end of Merlin's. Seven holes drilled, upping the ante with a change to the ingredients and adding some oomph. Because of the difficulties drilling some of the holes last week, used a blow-tube to clean-out the holes as I drilled. It went a lot better, although a couple of the holes were a tad awkward. Might have to consider making the approach a bit wider.

Anyway, all went off satisfactory manner, fly-rock was heard. It will be interesting on Saturday to see the results.

Exited the cave into rain, a bit different to last week.

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24th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 25, 2017 12:17:57
With Jake, Tav, Brockers and Jonathon.

A rather disappointingly short session, the induced speleogenesis did not have the desired effect and the debris was quickly cleared. There are fractures but too tight to break-out. The narrow gap in the fissure has become filled with gravel and didn't look all that enticing. We spent some time looking around and discussing a couple of alternative options before making our way-out of the cave, and up to the pub after getting changed.

Following a conservation with Jake, over a pint, we'll persevere a little longer with the expansion of the narrow fissure. I might, just change the ingredients to give a little more oomph to the speleogenesis process.



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20th June 2107

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 21, 2017 06:47:10
With Roz.

More induced rapid speleogenesis. Continuing the expansion of the narrow gap to the north of the current end of Merlin's. Six holes, plus a shorter one for the trimmings, concentrated on the right-side. Some of the holes weren't so easy to drill, the bit was binding, probably a calcite/mineral vein.

The task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

After a warm few days, I opted for cotton overalls, good choice, the cave is almost dry, just a small puddle along the haul and shuttle route, and still damp in the Tuck Shop, but I was comfortable.

Coming out of the cave, the heat is noticeable, still in the twenties at 21:00hrs.



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17th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, June 19, 2017 06:38:41

I was on the Gower Peninsula this weekend with John Cooper (The Lost Caves of Gower Project). Others, though kept up the fight, here follows Tav's report:

"Jake digging, Tav in the Tuck Shop, John 'Tarantella' Riley on the slope and Brockers on haul & shuttle.

23 bags of gravel and 10 loads of rocks were extracted to surface. The way on appeared to be a dead end alcove at first but a narrow continuation appeared late on in proceedings. Current state appears inconclusive. Consensus was that rather than attack the rift direct it would be good to zap the floor area above it first to widen the working area. Jake was going to try and send a photo, although obviously he'll need assistance from Sam!

Hot and clegs so went to the pub."





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13th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 14, 2017 06:28:08
With Roz.

A warm walk up to the cave entrance, and the clegs are back.

At the current end of Merlin's, I drilled 6no. holes either side of a narrow fissure that appears to lead north and downwards. An extra hole was utilised for the trimmings.

Hopefully, the induced rapid speleogenesis will have had the desired effect and created plenty of debris to be cleared on the weekend.

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10th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, June 12, 2017 06:45:47
With Nick, Tav, Jake, Matt, Brockers and Jonathon.

Brockers and Jonathon went off to the end to clear the debris and fill bags, after reeling in the wire. Matt was in the Tuck Shop, Jake at the top of the slope and I was on the haul and shuttle. Nick and Tav were on the surface looking after spoil management and other things.

Initially, a steady flow of rocks and filled bags came from the end. Then, towards the end of the session, things slowed, so I took the opportunity to go up to the dig and see the damage for myself. The outcome from the last bout of rock engineering was disappointing, the small gap had closed-down, just solid rock. Straight ahead (south-west) and to the left, the passage is choked with calcite and sediment but this is going in the wrong direction. Back in the east-west fissure the is a narrow gap leading north and downwards, I have already paid some attention to this but it was not very effective. Paul had cleared-out some of the debris and another shot might be more successful. I will try and get something sorted for Tuesday evening.

And that was it really...time for the pub.



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6th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 07, 2017 06:30:27
With Roz.

Some induced rapid speleogenesis required, 6no. holes drilled at the current end of Merlin's, on the right-hand side, where there is a small gap over a calcited (?) blockage. Some of the holes were a bit awkward, especially with the longer drill bit (460mm), but the job was done.

A few puddles along the way after the recent heavy rain.

The evening's task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.





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3rd June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 04, 2017 11:00:11
With Jake, Nick, Tav, Jonathon, Matt, and Alex too! Although Alex went off to do his own thing for a while he joined us later to haul-out a few bags.

Nick, Tav and Matt headed up to the end to start filling and stashing bags in the Tuck Shop, Jake, Jonathon and me, cleared the rocks that were stacked at the bottom of the entrance. That done, Jake and Jonathon went on into the cave to start clearing bags. I busied myself on the surface, wall-building and having a general tidy-up, packed up the empty bags, moving stone around, etc.

The bags arrived at the entrance at a nice steady rate, giving plenty of time to haul-out, empty and hang the bags to dry.

It was very pleasant in the warm sunshine, and the flies weren't too much of a nuisance yet, but I did wear a hat, just in case.

Forty-two bags were filled and emptied, along with 14 skip-loads of rock.

The news from the end wasn't full of enthusiasm, which is disappointing, apparently there is a 'calcite' blockage impeding further progress. I really should have kitted-up and gone along to the end to see for myself, but I didn't. Hindsight, as they say, is a marvellous thing. I will have to try and sort something out for the week ahead.

Right now, it was pub-time!



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30th May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, May 31, 2017 06:11:17
With Roz and Buster (the dog).

Forty bags cleared-out from the entrance and emptied onto the spoil heap, left the rocks for the weekend. The farmer, out with his dogs, came up to the cave for a chat. And, it was he, that finally broke the rotten fence rail.

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27th May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 28, 2017 08:11:42
With Nick, Brockers and Jonathon.

Me digging, Brockers clearing away, Jonathon at the top of the slope, Nick was on the haul and shuttle and stashing the spoil at the bottom of the entrance.

We took a couple of replacement skips, as we are wearing them out rather quickly. There was also a pile of rocks left in the Tuck Shop on Tuesday evening to be cleared out. While the team dealt with that, I filled bags at the end.

After removing a decent amount of sediment I could get a better look at the end. There isn't an obvious way on, at the moment, progress being hampered by a calcite blockage. The floor of the passage does drop, but is filled with layers of sandy silt and degrading calcite flowstone, the calcite appears old and is yellowish in colour. It is possible that by following the floor down we might dig underneath the blockage and the way ahead become clearer. The puzzling thing is, it's hard work at the end, in a confined space, the air is always fresh and it doesn't steam-up. There is still plenty of work to do.

It was soon time to stop digging and, by consensus, go to the pub. The bags and rock stashed in the entrance will be cleared during the coming week.





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23rd May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, May 24, 2017 06:22:56
With Jake, Tav and Nick.

Took the capping gear along, as requested, to deal with the obstructing lump of flowstone at the current end. Nick helped to carry the kit to the end, while Jake and Tav set about clearing the stack of spoil left at the entrance on Saturday.

About half-hour of digging round the obstruction, some bar work, we managed to ease the calcite blockage out of the way and rolled back to the Tuck Shop. I got the capping gear into action, Nick carried on filling bags. When the rocks at the Tuck Shop had been reduced to a pile of rubble, it was time to clear the filled bags out. Jake and Tav had come to the end and a quick re-positioning, the spoil was duly removed. A total of 68 loads, including Saturdays, were cleared to the surface. It was a warm evening, pub time.

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20th May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, May 23, 2017 17:51:36

I was on a jolly for the weekend, attending a British Cave Research Association (BCRA) field meeting exploring and discussing the caves and karst of the Gower Peninsula, Wales.

A plucky band of stalwarts kept up the good work at Hallowe'en Rift, here is Tav's report:

"John, Matt, Tav, Jake.

Digging by John, then Tav, with brief cameo from Jake, revolving around Matt in the Tuck Shop. 50 odd loads stacked in the entrance waiting for clearance on Tuesday?

All bang debris removed plus one large slab of calcite from floor and one large lump of roof from the end. Way on is more visible. It does not turn right, or enlarge much, but continues low and straight ahead - perilously close to the entrance series. No bang needed yet but capping gear may be needed for one remaining and very big calcite slab still in floor. Best bet for Tuesday would seem to be to send someone up the end to deal with the slab while others clear. The slab may well come out without capping once more earth is cleared from the top".



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16th May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, May 17, 2017 06:11:43
With Roz.

At the current end of Merlin's, following the south-west leading gap, drilled 6no. hole in the floor, to continue the expansion. Struggled to drill the holes at first but, a squirt of WD40 solved that issue. I raked a lot of sediment out from the way forward to use as tamp, in doing so, got a better look at the prospects - they look interesting. The small passage appears to get a little bigger, dips down and, possibly widens to the north-west side.

The evening's task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Should be plenty to clear on the weekend.



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13th May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 14, 2017 08:34:32
With Jake, Brocker's, Tav, Nick, Matt and Jonathon.

A good strong crew today. Nick clearing the debris and digging, Jonathon was in the 'Tuck Shop', I was at the top of the slope, Matt was hauling from Stal' Bend, Tav shuttling to and fro, Jake and Brocker's were on the surface pulling the skips up the entrance shaft and wall building.

48 bags of sediment and 24 skip loads of rock were removed from the cave. IRS had done its bit.

At the end, the small gap between the roof and sediment can be seen to continue. There is a layer of red-brown silt c.200mm thickness overlying calcite flowstone c.250mm thickness, this in turn, overlies dolomitic conglomerate. The flowstone is in layers indicating it has formed during a succession of events. the contact between each of the layers appears "dirty" and the upper surface is rippled. The flowstone is pale yellow-brown in colour.

There is a need for more rapid expansion to aid further progress, I will try and arrange something during the coming week.

But, it was time for the pub!



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8th May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, May 09, 2017 05:55:30
With Roz.

At the present end of Merlin's, drilled 6no. holes, plus an extra one for the trimmings, to facilitate the application of IRS.

The evening's task was bought to a satisfactory conclusion. There should be debris to clear on the weekend.

It was a fine evening and the view from the field, over towards Glastonbury Tor, although a little hazy, was good.

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6th May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, May 07, 2017 11:21:21
With Brocker's, Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Tav.

Brocker's went to the end of Merlin's to clear the debris, Jake was in the 'Tuck Shop', Nick at the top of the slope, I was on the haul and shuttle until Jonathon arrived and took over the hauling bit. Tav was on the surface, hauling out the spoil and wall building, after clearing away the vegetation to facilitate an extension of the wall.

The induced rapid speleogenesis (IRS) had worked, 56 skip-loads of rock, gravel and some fine sediment were hauled out on to the surface.

Towards the end of the session I went up to the end to have a look at the progress made. Jake and Brocker's had swapped places, Jake was busy removing the last of the fractured rock in readiness for the next application of IRS. There is good clean rock to drill into at the base of the potential way forward, so the scalloping in the roof can be preserved. Jake cleared away some loose sediment and the low gap can be seen to continue for about 3 metres, there is 150-200mm of calcite on the floor of the phreatic 'tube', it appears to trend to the south-west.

All cleared, it was time for refreshments.

I have arranged to attend to the IRS on Monday evening, so more to clear next weekend.



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1st May 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, May 02, 2017 06:00:41
With Roz.

After a visit to the suppliers and prep work done it was off to Hallowe'en Rift to continue the expansion work to the south-side, at the present end of Merlin's.

Six holes were drilled, 4no. in the roof and right (west) side and 2no. in bulge of rock, lower on the left (east) side. Roz took the photographs. It sounded good from Stal Bend.


Stopped at the Queen Vic for a bowl of chunky chips each and some liquid refreshments.

Then the skies opened, impressive thunder.

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29th April 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 30, 2017 10:55:28
With Tav, Nick, Matt, Brockers and Jonathon.

After reeling in the wire, Tav set about clearing the rock debris and digging, Matt was in his favourite spot at the bottom of the slope and Nick was at the top. Brockers (dodgy back) was hauling from 'Stal Bend' with Jonathon doing the shuttle.

I was on the surface in the sunshine, sorting out the spoil heap and adding more to the wall. 15 skip loads of rock and 25 bags of gravel and mud were hauled out to the surface.

Towards the end of the session I ventured underground to have a look at the end and get an idea of what might be required in the coming week to aid progress.

The low gap on the south side had been cleared out and a good phreatic roof could be seen. The visible passage appears to be trending south-west and slightly downwards and looks to be a decent lead to follow. The floor of the small passage looks to be calcited but rock under that. It needs enlarging, so more induced rapid speleogenesis is required, another job to arrange for the mid-week.

Well, if Wookey Hole show cave can have dinosaurs, then so can we!


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25th April 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, April 26, 2017 06:02:30
With Roz.

Another application of induced rapid speleogenesis, 6no. holes at the current end of Merlin's, to widen a small gap on the south-side of the west extent; 4no. in the roof and 2no. lower down. I managed to snap my long drill bit (460mm x 12mm), good job I had a spare. Sounded good. Hopefully, it will be more successful than the last attempt.



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22nd April 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 23, 2017 10:00:47
With Jake, Tav, Brocker's and Jonathon.

The blast didn't have the desired effect, there is some deep fracturing but not enough to allow widening of the passage, still too tight to remove. I cleared away the debris that had been created, but digging was going to be slow, so Jake came to the end to dig the high-level blockage to the north-east, while I continued to scratch around the potential lead to the west, ready for an attempt at induced rapid speleogenesis here. I will, probably concentrate on the roof, where there is solid rock, the lower blockage appears to be heavily calcited gravel, cobbles, etc., this is not easy material to deal with.

The way to the north-east did not develop any further, a narrow inlet trending north and calcited, it was, however bought to a conclusion.

All that was required now was to clear the pile of rock and fine sediment, that Jake had dug out, including some quite large boulders.

Everything, was cleared to the surface, and there is another supply of rocks for the wall.



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17th April 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, April 18, 2017 05:49:56
Solo.

At the current end of Merlin's, 6no. holes were drilled in the north side, to expand a narrow fissure, induced rapid speleogenesis occurred. There will be rubble to clear next weekend.



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15th April 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 16, 2017 07:40:17
With Tav, Jake, Nick, Matt, Jonathon, and introducing Paul Brock (Brocker's) to the fray.

We needed two vehicles to transport a strong team from the Hunter's down to the farm.
All changed, we headed up the hill to the cave.

After digging last session I was on surface duty, Tav and Jake on the haul and shuttle, Jonathon at the top of the slope, Matt at the bottom. Brocker's and Nick were digging.

The bags started to arrive at the entrance at a rather alarming rate, too fast to empty them and after about thirty bags, one after another, Tav came to the surface to help. Initially, Tav had been clearing the low passage into the 'West Series' of Hallowe'en Rift, adding some sloppy bags to an already burgeoning pile. The first few bags were not easy to empty and several were consigned to the wall, although it was apparent that most had come to the end of their usefulness. Eventually, the pace slackened as the diggers wrestled a large boulder out of the way, then more bags came out.

Ninety-one loads to the surface, a very productive session.

The digger's reported that the way forward is obstructed by rock(s) and probably requires 'induced rapid speleogenesis'. I will have to see if I can arrange a mid-week trip to the supplier.

Anyway, there was a thirst that required quenching, off to the pub!



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8th April 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 09, 2017 07:43:30
With Jonathon, Nick and Matt.

Me digging, Jonathon at the bottom of the slope, Matt at the top and Nick on the haul and shuttle.

The cave is showing the very first signs of drying, some of the puddles were lower and the sediment wasn't quite as claggy.


As the excavation proceeded, tantalising little spaces were opening, unfortunately these were not accessible, there appears to be a calcited pile of cobbles and boulders causing an obstruction. As ever, more sediment will need to be removed to get a clearer picture of what lies ahead.

Thirty bags filled, I moved back and Jonathon took over the digging, I went back to swap places with Nick so that he could look at the end later.

About 12:30hrs, it was time to clear the cave, Nick went to look at the end, the rest of us started to clear the bags and rock. The bags were so much easier to empty this weekend, although a couple had come to the end of their use and were incorporated into the wall. 40 bags and 2 skip loads of rock out to the surface.

It was glorious in the warm sunshine, but it was pub-time.

This interesting fragment of calcite formation was recovered from the finer sediment a little while ago.





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1st April 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, April 02, 2017 11:51:13
With Tav, Jake and Jonathon.

Tav started the digging, later swapping places with Jonathon, who was at the bottom of the slope. I was at the top of the slope, hauling spoil and transferring the load to the skip down to Jake, on the haul and shuttle.

Before things got underway, Jake replaced the worn-out skip with a new model, that required a little fine tuning, a new return haul line was also fitted.

A steady flow of bags and rock came from the business end and time drifted by. It was soon time to move back to the entrance and clear the pile of spoil to the surface, we ended up a little later than planned. I took the opportunity to have a gander at the end before joining the others, haven't been up here for a while. I was struck by how big it was, a lot of spoil has been shifted. High up (NNE) there is a space that could do with opening-up a bit just to check if there is anything there really. Low down in the floor (W), under a bag, is a small calcited gap downwards, this would appear to indicate there is something at a lower level. We'll have to wait and see how it develops, there is plenty of sediment to be removed beforehand. Although the small gap might require some induced rapid speleo-genesis at some time in the future.

Back at the entrance, about 55 bags, some rocks, a 'dead' skip and rope, and a small frog were hauled out of the cave to the surface.

A busier session than usual at the Hunter's; the ashes of two of Mendip's caving stalwarts were spread, Tony Knibbs at Longwood and Ray Mansfield at Swildon's. Left the pub rather later than anticipated.





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25th March 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 26, 2017 12:21:48
With Jake, Matt and Jonathon.

Jake digging, Matt at the bottom of the slope, Jonathon at the top, me on the haul and shuttle. No-one available for the surface duty today, so the bags and rocks were stacked in the entrance to be removed later in the session.

A steady stream of bags, with the occasional rock, were moved from the dig. I had to go out to the surface to fetch some more bags. Eventually, it was time to move back and clear the stock pile out to the surface. Matt filled the skip, Jake and I took turns to haul the spoil out and Jonathon emptied the bags. Fifty loads in total came to the surface, 48 bags and a couple of rocks that were added to the wall.

About the dig, Jake reported that the floor is dropping down, there are a couple of small steps, and a thin layer of granular material, with some cobbles having a dark manganese coating, reminiscent of some stream beds. Sounds interesting, and there's still plenty of sediment to remove.

It was glorious on the surface in the warm spring sunshine, and not many flies around, yet.



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18th March 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 19, 2017 16:02:35
With Nick, Tav, Jake and Jonathon.

I did the surface duty again, the hauling of bags up the entrance not good for Nick's back, he did the haul and shuttle instead. Tav was at the top of the slope, Jake at the bottom, leaving Jonathon to get on with the digging bit.

While the underground team got things underway, I packed up the loose bags and added more rock to the wall, increasing the available space for spoil disposal.

The filled bags started to arrive on the surface at a steady pace, with just enough time in-between to empty them, although some of the bags were a little reluctant to disgorge their contents, only two were incorporated into the wall. Fifty-two bags and four rocks, added to the wall, were hauled to surface.

At the end, the anticipated drop down to a lower level doesn't appear to be happening quite yet, Jon encountered a solid floor initially, but by the end of the session, had just reached a more cobbled, granular fill, so there's hope yet.

Still plenty to dig out next session.





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11th March 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 12, 2017 07:38:20
With Tav, Jake, Nick, Matt and Jonathon.

After digging last weekend, I was on surface duty today; Tav was doing the haul and shuttle; Jake, at the top of the slope, Matt at the bottom; Nick, on his return after a back injury caused by over enthusiastic use of the sledge hammer, took the first digging stint, later swapping places with Jonathon.

Seventy-eight loads were hauled out of the cave, mostly bags but some rocks too. I had to change the hauling rope three times, as each became too slippery to grip, even the knotted rope wasn't easy to hold. The bags, filled with claggy sediment, weren't much fun to empty either, difficult to grip and shake the contents out. Only one, though, refused to relinquish its contents, and that became incorporated into the wall, All the sediment was compacted behind the retaining wall. The weather was good, and the birds were singing, keeping the mind off an aching back. I have to agree with Tav, surface duty is one of the harder tasks, especially while it's damp underground and the sediment so claggy.

Still, another good digging session and the refreshments were well earned.



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4th March 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, March 05, 2017 08:02:43
With Jonathon, Matt, Jake and Tav.

I did the excavation and filling of bags, Jonathon cleared the bags and rocks away.

The spoil was loaded into the skip to Matt, at the top of the slope. Jake was on haul and shuttle duty, while Tav had opted to be on the surface. The extracted spoil was added to the wall, the sediment packed behind the stonework to add strength.

The wall, with drying bags flapping in the wind like Buddhist prayer flags.

At the end, I concentrated on clearing the 'trample' from the floor, the digging forward toward a back wall. Here, a very narrow, 'clean-washed' gap was revealed. I pulled out some small stones and could peer down about 300 to 500mm, there was a feint draught of cool air emanating from the hole. It would appear that there is a lower level of development. Although, the passage does pinch in, it widens lower down, there is plenty of compact sediment to be removed before a better evaluation can be determined. At higher level in the passage, there still remains a considerable amount of sediment that needs to be removed.

Digging is not exactly rapid at the moment, the spoil is very claggy and sticks to the tools. I found it easier to loosen the spoil with the mattock, then fill the bags by hand. A steady 40 or so bags were filled with a few rocks, along with the rocks left over from Thursday evening, 55 loads were hauled out to the surface.



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2nd March 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, March 03, 2017 06:26:18
With Tav and Jake.

Tav digging, me clearing the bags and rocks to Jake, at the top of the slope where the spoil was stashed temporarily. Some of the rocks needed reduction in size before being moved on.

After a couple of dozen or so bags had been filled, we changed positions and moved the bags to the entrance, the rocks will stay until where they are until Saturday. The final task of the evening was to clear the bags from the entrance and empty them out. Emptying the bags turned out to be rather more difficult than anticipated. The sediment had become claggier, possibly because it was 'trampled' material.

Tav, then set about removing the spoil he had brought out of the cave attached to his oversuit and boots.

Hopefully, now spring has arrived, according to meteorological terms, the cave should start drying out.





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